Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I do it because...

We had yet another counseling session with Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju. From the last session, we decided to agree on weekly phone calls with Logan and 2 one hour meetings at a public place (the mall play area) where they could see the kids. We followed through on the agreements until Grandma L made the guilt trip comment to Logan and I couldn't handle the stress of weekly calls any more. Bill stopped the calls altogether until we could talk about it in this session.

Bill and I met in the parking lot and waited together in my car because we were a bit early. I had been having not only a rough day because of all of this, but a rough week or so because of Bill. Since his return from New York, I had been sick to my stomach from stress and anxiety almost 24/7. So, adding this little hour of happiness was just the cherry on top of a big crap sundae. I was not excited to be there and I told Bill that I wanted to wait in the car for as long as we could, because I couldn't handle waiting in the small waiting room again while they happily chatted about dumb stuff while I was angry with how things have been going down.

Of course, I was ignored. And why nobody has yet to figure out that I'm not one to be ignored, that if you don't take what I have to say with consideration, I will get louder and louder until I am heard. So, there were words before going in. And that just made the situation even worse because I was pissed beyond pissed. I was livid.

We walk in and Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju say hi as if nothing is wrong. I tell them that I'm angry and would rather not pretend with niceties at this point. I was angry with the guilt trip in the last phone call and we would talk about it in the session. Then Aunt Ju-Ju opens her big mouth and we have words - many of them. Her manipulative, bitchy, button-pushing self showed through, saying that the apologies they gave last session were insincere, that she was sorry her brother is married to me and on, and on, and on. I wanted to leave. I wanted to punch her. I wanted to call her every horrible name that I think she is. But I stayed. I stayed because...

We go into the session and right away Aunt Ju-Ju starts off with her bitchy attitude, stirring the pot. I turned and said that she was not helpful in anyway and that she has been nothing but a catalyst towards destruction in this whole situation. The counselor then asked both Aunt Ju-Ju and Grandma L to leave while she talked to just Bill and I. Clearly, we were not on the same page, we haven't been for some time and this whole in-law insanity is just a driving wedge. Again.

She tried to get us back on track, talking to Bill about listening to me when I have concerns and about me letting Bill scale the severity of the situation, because the in-laws cause me such anxiety and stress that I'm hypervigilant. Then, because of how I feel around them, she thought it would be best if I went out in the waiting room when they came back in. She would express to Aunt Ju-Ju how important it is that she not divide the situation and to Grandma L that anything that sounds like guilt is not OK right now.

After the three of them had their time, and Grandma L and Aunt Ju-Ju left, Bill and I sat in again to go over what had transpired. All day I had been feeling bottled up and needed an emotional release - I needed a deep cry. I was at my breaking point and just heaved heavy, soul wrenching sobs. Every cell in my body unleashed the sadness.

After a while, we wrapped up. The counselor really tried to get Bill to understand that I do this because I love him, that I keep trying the best I can in this situation because of love.

And I'm on my way to work on post-traumatic stress disorder in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My sweet baby

Carter is such a sweet little guy. He is more of a cuddle kid, even though he is busy running around at times. As busy as he gets, playing with dinosaurs and cars with Logan or sitting at the book shelf reading his board books, he still takes the time - many times a day - to come over and give hugs. He wraps his little arms around our legs and gives us the most precious baby hugs. I love it!

When I get him in his car seat, he immediately reaches for his blanket that I keep in the car (both kids have blankets during the winter). He holds it up, says "et" or "ish" for blanket, smiles and then cuddles with it by his face and says "awww". IT IS SO CUTE! I can hardly stand it.

Oh, what a sweet, sweet baby he is!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The best month of December and Christmas EVER

So there's been a lot of celebrating over here with the biggest holiday season upon us. First, there was Bill's company Christmas Party. Unlike other people who may dread these parties, we absolutely love and look forward to the company party every year. Bill works with a great group of people and it makes the night even more fun. We've been to three Christmas parties for the company and every year it gets bigger and better. The food is delicious, the open bar is fantastic (and I would never want to see that bill!) and there are always tears of gratitude from many people during speeches and award ceremonies.

The boys were at home with a sitter and Bill's boss/co-worker's two kids. They had a pizza pajama party and enjoyed every minute. While we ate, drank and mingled, they jumped off couches and ran around the house screaming to their delight. We got a ride home from the limo/party bus service the Company provided so everyone could get home safely.

Then there was Logan's preschool Christmas program. As I mentioned, he was the kid in the class who didn't want to sing. Granted, he wasn't the biggest Grinch in the class, one of his other classmates had his arms crossed with a very angry scowl on his face. But, nevertheless, Logan looked like he was too cool for school. He must get it from his Father. During the "Jingle Bells" song, Logan's friend turns to him and tells him to sing. To which Logan Logan shakes his head and adamantly says "NO". It's hilarious.

After that, we had our Annual MOMS Club Holiday Potluck. It started out as a rough night. Bill had been out of town for the week on business and just as I was unloading the groceries from the car, the LDS missionaries came up the driveway and tried convincing me to come back to church for 15 minutes (again). Not wanting to be a jerk to them, I nicely told them why I wasn't only to get blank stares of disbelief and empty apologies. This whole event caused me to be late in getting dinner ready, which caused me to be late to the party. I was the only one who had the keys to get in. So getting there, by myself with the kids, was a complete nightmare. But, once we did, it was the best party our chapter has had yet. We had a White Elephant Exchange, a large potluck and lots of laughs and conversation. There were 25 families, about 100 people including kids and husbands and a lot of fun.

That night Bill came home from his business trip to New York. He came back with a ton of pictures to share (from the new camera we bought because I need one here at home for restaurant reviews while he's gone), presents for the boys and a Christmas present for me. A huge diamond necklace that made my jaw drop. I've wanted a necklace for a while and it just wasn't possible in the past. Bill has been doing very well at work this year so we've been by the jewelry store a few times to look. While in New York, he did some negotiating in the Diamond District and came home with a necklace that I never expected to have. I LOVE IT! And I'm thankful he couldn't wait to give it to me so I could start wearing it early.

Next, we took the kids to see Santa downtown (there are two in town - one in the mall and one downtown. The downtown Santa is more authentic and better). Logan was so excited, Carter, not so much. While we waited for our turn, Logan kept dancing around, poking his head through the curtain (it's in a cute wooden cabin) and asking when we would be able to sit on Santa's lap. Finally it was our turn, and this guy was a pro. He knew right away that Carter wasn't going for it, just by the look on his face. He had instructions for me - how to sit with Carter and where while Logan sat on the other side listing his Christmas wants - dinosaurs, race cars, flutes and guitars. It was a well organized process (almost too organized, but I guess you have to be when dealing with thousands of kids every day) and we got the excited squeals of an almost 4 year old in return.

A few days later I got an email from Bill saying that we should go look for a new car that night. We have been a one-car-family for years, even before kids. It's worked for us and our trusty Outback has been a great car with minimal problems. With Bill traveling and our family growing, it has been more of a necessity to have a second car. We had been discussing buying another in the spring. But, we only had a few payments left on our old car and were ready to get another now.

We went and test drove a Nissan that we didn't like and decided that we are a Subaru family through and through. We drove straight to another dealership, found a car that we love and bought it the next day. I LOVE IT! It snowed quite a bit the day after we got the new Subaru and it did great - smooth, easy to control, no sliding and very warm (seat warmers!). Bill is now driving the old Outback and the kids and I get to take the new one. So, I guess I got a new car for Christmas too!

Then - Christmas Eve. Wow. First we woke up and hung out for a while, drinking coffee and making Christmas Tree Cookies. After Carter woke up from his nap, we all went sledding. This was the first time Logan had ever been and he was thrilled - and fearless. Both he and Bill went down the hill many times with Logan having the biggest smile on his face. He would tuck himself into a little ball every time he would go down, increasing his speed and flying off the small ramp that someone had build on the hill. Carter was not a fan of being out in the cold, despite being bundled up in a snow suit. He was too small to go down the fast hill, so I would pull him around the flat parts of the park, with him crying most of the time. I eventually got him back in the car, warm and listening to Christmas music while Logan and Bill went dare devil sledding.

We came back to eat dinner - a beef tenderloin that was good (but a bit too rare for our liking). It was hard to get the kids to eat because they were so excited to open presents. After much prodding, we finally gave in and let them go at it. There was wrapping paper everywhere as Logan searched under the tree for presents with his name on them. Carter mostly wanted to play with bows and the presents that Logan opened. They had an absolute blast this year and we all made out like bandits.

Christmas morning has been spent lounging around in our pajamas, eating sausage-hash brown casserole, watching Christmas movies and playing with toys. It's been a great year and the best Christmas EVER!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

He doesn't really care

When we first enrolled Logan in preschool, I was curious as to what the future might hold when it came to religious discussions with a three year old. Being agnostic and Logan going to a Christian preschool, I wondered what questions he might have about prayer and Jesus and how I might go about explaining that on his level of understanding.

I know that everyday they sing "prayers" in class (they are merely happy songs and not traditional prayers) and I've asked him to sing them for me. Which he won't. I've asked him to repeat some of the things from school. He doesn't. I've never asked him for his thoughts on Jesus, Church or prayer, waiting to see if he is even interested in the topic.

Today he had his preschool Christmas program and they've been learning about the "real" meaning of Christmas all week in preparation for the program. They sang about the Christmas star and Baby Jesus. Logan didn't sing at all (which is for a different post with video where you can watch his stone-faced glare at me). After the program, as always, I asked him what he learned. Again, he's never talked about anything affiliated with religion.

Despite him being softly introduced to the concept of religious beliefs, I've come to the conclusion that he just doesn't care. I don't see him asking who Jesus is or asking to say a prayer at the table any time soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas traditions

Ever since starting our family, it has been exceedingly imperative to me that we create our own holiday traditions. Maybe this stems from my childhood and remembering my mom working almost every holiday, shortening the celebration to only a few moments. It's possible that I feel this way because the very few happy memories that I have from that time in my life are of special holiday moments, like the insane amounts of holiday baking she would do from scratch for presents - cookies, colored popcorn balls, fudge and bars - all of them excessively delicious. I'm almost certain that creating our own traditions is to help me feel that our family is normal in an extraordinarily abnormal reality.

We haven't started many traditions yet since the boys are still very young and each year we add more to our list. This year we will probably go look at Christmas lights, maybe a horse-drawn carriage ride downtown on Christmas Eve, depending on how cold it is. We have always donned them in Christmas pajamas to go to bed in on Christmas Eve and we bake cookies. There is one kind in particular that I can say is our family's traditional holiday cookie - White Chocolate Pistachio Butter Cookies. It's a recipe that I've created myself, but is not totally genius - it just makes sense.

After a particularly rough night, kids screaming and fighting, my patience thin and Bill on a business trip, I needed to make cookies for Logan's preschool program. I got Carter to bed and had Logan help me out with the project. His disagreeable disposition changed drastically as I was getting the kitchen ready for baking. He was so excited, pulling up his wooden step stool, helping me flour the counter and cutting out pine tree-shaped cookies, just like he does with his Play-Doh. He snuck bites of crushed pistachios and smiled as I painted each cookie to dip in the nuts, telling me to be careful every time I burnt my fingers with melted white chocolate. Covered in flour from chin, arms and chest, he grabbed me around my waist. "Mom, guess what?" he asked. "What?" I replied. "I love you" he said from the bottom of his almost 4 year old heart.

White Chocolate Pistachio Butter Cookies, also known as "Christmas Trees"

2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tea spoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 bag shelled pistachios

Have all ingredients at room temperature (68-70 degrees). In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt on medium speed until very fluffy and well-blended. Add the egg yolk and beat until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and slowly add the flour just until combined.

Dived the dough in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375. Place the shelled pistachios in a sandwich bag and crush to desired consistency (I like mine moderately crushed, not too fine, but not too whole). Empty crushed nuts onto a plate.

Take one disc of dough and roll out on a floured counter top. Cut the dough into tree shapes and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until edges are barely golden brown. Using a thin-bladed spatula, transfer the cookies to a baking rack to cool.

On the stove top, melt the white chocolate (my preferred method is a double boiler). Stir chocolate until it is smooth and shiny. Remove from stove top.

With a silicone basting brush, paint one cookie with the melted white chocolate and then dip onto the plate of pistachios, covering the chocolate almost completely. Repeat with each cookie. Transfer to an air-tight container.

Yields 2 dozen cookies

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Our life in pictures

Some almost 4 year old has sticky fingers from sneaking pumpkin pie.

Playing at a friends house during Thanksgiving break.

Sunday morning cuddle time in our bed watching cartoons.

Carter now wants to walk around with binki's and blankets all of the time, sneaking them out of his room (the only place he can have pacifiers). And it's pretty cute.

Carter is now forward-facing with Logan! He loves it.

I will have lots of time to catch up next week and pretty much the whole month of January - I might even get back to posting daily (don't hold your breath).

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Sudden optimism

It had been a rough start to the day - whining, crying, fussing, fighting - enough to make me want to just cancel all of our plans and hibernate while the freshly fallen snow covered the city in a white, icy blanket. We got home and I made the boys breakfast, slicing banana and blueberry bagel for Carter, a Nutrigrain bar, banana and Carnation Instant Breakfast (or as he likes to call it, "Chocolate Milk") for Logan. They were quiet and content for the moment, the irritations from the morning subsided.

I sat in the living room and opened the laptop to read emails, facebook and check stats while the kids were happily inhaling their food behind me. After wishing friends 'Happy Birthday', finding out that playgroup had been canceled and receiving an email of thanks for a review I wrote for a restaurant, a sudden feeling of optimism came over me. This next year is going to be amazing. My 30's are going to be the best years of my life, I thought to myself.

I have no idea why I thought this, especially since the morning had been nothing short of hell. But I did, and I felt strongly about it. Maybe it's because everything seems to be coming together - financial stability, parenting confidence, a sense of purpose outside of motherhood, a stronger and happier family that we've grown to be (and continue to work on). Maybe it's because we've reached a level of adulthood where we are more capable and still able to have a lot of fun. Maybe it's because we've been able to help others more than we ever have before. Maybe at this moment I've found the balance in life that I've been striving for.

Before this morning I used to dread turning 30 - feeling old, noticing gray hair and more stressed than a person should be at my age. Now, I'm looking forward to it. With all of the years of anxiety, stress and deep sadness for things that have happened, I'm being optimistic that this next year will be the best I've ever had.